Tomorrow’s big event

For some reason, I often forget to plug here, events that I helped organize.  I should.  I worked damn hard to make this one happen.  And there’s a decent number of my readers that are local.  Anyway, I’m very excited that voting law expert extraordinaire, Richard L. Hasen, will be giving a public lecture at NC State tomorrow night at 7p (full details here).  The talk is titled: Race, Party, and Politics: North Carolina’s New Front in the Voting Wars.”  It should be great.  If you are local (or visiting form Switzerland, as was the serendipitous case for one friend and last year’s speaker) please come.

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Video of the day

A most unusual goal.

My state? South Dakota

So, this was kind of fun.  Take a brief personality quiz and see which of the 50 states matches best with your results (based on the personalities of the residents of the states).  My result….  that’s right, South Dakota.  It is “conventional and friendly.”  Two terms that definitely describe me better than “relaxed and creative” (oh, I’m relaxed, just not at all creative) and definitely not “temperamental and uninhibited” (oh, I’m so inhibited.  really).   Check it out.

time

Photo of the day

Recent Astronomy photo of the day.  Awesome.

hood

Mt. Hood and a Lenticular Cloud 
Image Credit & Copyright: Ben Canales

Au revoir, dollar menu

My favorite $3 lunch?  A vanilla cone (how do they make it so good and low-fat at the same time?), a plain spicy McChicken, and a huge Diet Dr. Pepper from McDonald’s dollar menu.  I had it yesterday, in fact.  Thus, especially intrigued by Derek Thompson’s column on how this is simply not economically sustainable for McDonald’s anymore:

Accounting for about one-seventh of the chain’s total sales, the Dollar Menu, once a brilliant marketing gimmick, is now an anchor—both economically and metaphorically, speaking—enraging franchisees who can’t make any money selling 2013 processed cow meat at 2002 prices. McDonald’s has experimented with raising prices and tweaking its offerings to appease owners, but by November, the Dollar Menu will be gone, essentially…

In January, Wendy’s turned its 99-Cent Menu into the Right Price Right Size menu. Now McDonald’s has turned its Dollar Menu into a Dollar-and-Up Menu, which is an awfully multisyllabic synonym for “a menu.” As fast casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera continue to expand, McDonald’s should be relieved that they’ve taken away the promise to anchor all their food prices to $1.

Anyway, I’ll still happily take this meal for $4.

Vocabulary, parents, and pre-K

Yet another story that highlights the huge gap in the language development of middle and above versus low-income children.

Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs.

Now a follow-up study has found a language gap as early as 18 months, heightening the policy debate.

The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.

The new findings, although based on a small sample, reinforced the earlier research showing that because professional parents speak so much more to their children, the children hear 30 million more words by age 3 than children from low-income households, early literacy experts, preschool directors and pediatricians said. In the new study, the children of affluent households came from communities where the median income per capita was $69,000; the low-income children came from communities with a median income per capita of $23,900.

Since oral language and vocabulary are so connected to reading comprehension, the most disadvantaged children face increased challenges once they enter school and start learning to read.

Okay, the obvious upshot from all that– more pre-K for disadvantaged kids.  Undoubtedly a good idea (as mentioned here on multiple occasions).  That said, this time I was really thinking a lot about those low-income parents who just aren’t talking to their kids enough.   I want more research on this!  Then again, it was only three weeks ago I wrote:

 I still want a better answer for why it is lower class parents talk to their kids so much less.  Why is that?  Is this universal across countries and cultures?  Can we break this cultural difference in some large-scale way that does not rely on home interventions.  Sort of a “back to sleep” campaign for talking to your baby/toddler?  (Of course, this coming from a guy who let his strong-necked babies sleep on their stomachs).

That Slate article I was responding to talked about a small program that actually works on the parents instead of kids.  I think I want more of this.  How much better if these low-income households can come to emulate the higher-income households in these critical ways, rather than trying to compensate through pre-K.  Now, I realize of course this cannot always work for myriad reasons.  But when it can, it strikes me as a preferable option.  Not to mention, if you invest money in low-income parents on their firstborn, those efforts should hopefully pay off for multiple children.  And, again, if we want to change the culture of low income parents, the more low income parents who are properly engaging their children’s language development, the better.

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